6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Variable, but with some classic works,
This review is from: Woody Allen Collection: Volume 2 [DVD] (DVD)
While perhaps this 'middle' collection of Woody Allen's films is a tiny touch more inconsistent than the first, it's still a remarkable for a collection of important films by one of our best filmmakers. My individual thoughts, in chronological order (note - I used a 4 star review system) ;
Interiors (1978) ***1/4 A totally serious, almost theatrical examination of the meltdown of a rich, WASPy family might seem worlds away from anything Allen's earlier films prepared us for, but for the most part he's very up to the task, creating a gallery of disturbing and unforgettable moments and characters. Yes, it's derivative of Bergman, but it's also pretty damn good. Beautifully photographed by Gordon Willis, with amazing performances (Geraldine Page, Mary Beth Hurt, Maureen Stapleton in particular are brilliant, but everyone is good). The script does border on cliché at moments, and some specific dialogue is clunky, but there's something deeply moving and hard to shake in it's overall final effect. Under appreciated in its time, it's faults now seem very forgivable, and there's excitement in watching a great filmmaker stretch his talent in a new direction.
Manhattan (1979) ***3/4 One of the most stunningly beautiful to look at films of the last 50 years, made with great wit, and full of strong observations about loss, aging, and how we lie to ourselves. Still, it doesn't quite rise to the level of `Annie Hall' for me in terms of timelessness or emotional impact. A film I really, really like, respect, see why others have it on their '10 best of all time' lists, etc. but feel guilty that I can't flat out love. Somehow all the adult characters' self-obsessed narcissism keeps me at arms length. I identify with moments, but -- unlike Annie Hall - not the whole. That said, it's strengths are so strong, and it has affected so many so deeply that I would say its a film any film lover owes themselves the chance to see. If nothing else, Gordon Willis' photography will leave you with images you'll never forget.
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) *** For me, the weakest of the group, though far from 'bad'. A cute and charming romp. A group of friends in the early 20th century get caught up in a weekend of love and sex in the country. Certainly enjoyable, if not really much more. Gordon Willis's photography is nowhere near as amazing as his earlier collaborations with Woody, and the film doesn't have any wildly funny moments. But the writing is witty, and the acting solid if not triumphant. It just doesn't feel like a Woody Allen film somehow. More like a nice, solid, unassuming French farce. That's not a bad thing, and this film is still better than 99% of what comes out of Hollywood, with a sweeter, more upbeat tone than usual for Allen. It's just coming on the heels of masterpieces like 'Annie Hall', 'Manhattan', and 'Stardust Memories', and just before other great films like 'Zelig' 'Hannah and Her Sisters', and 'Purple Rose of Cairo', it can't help but pale a bit in comparison.
Zelig (1983)**** Amazing technically, with a lot to say about society, conformity, and how we see ourselves. This brilliantly made mock documentary about a 'human chameleon' in the 1920s and 30s who unconsciously changes his appearance in a desperate attempt to fit in and be liked, is hilarious and heartbreaking, often at the same time. Some of the visual effects are still astounding by modern standards. And Allen gives a performance that is surprisingly subtle. There are a few slow moments, and a few jokes feel self-conscious, but not enough to hurt the film in any way. This is tied with 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' and 'Hannah and her Sisters' for my 2nd favorite Allen film behind 'Annie Hall'. One of the greatest films by one the great filmmakers of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Very worth seeking out.
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)***1/4 A sweet, fun, well-told, Damon Runionesque fable of a well meaning if pathetic theatrical manager getting caught up with the mob. Not quite as amazing as Allen's very best films, but there's a touching, gentle, funny humanity that runs through it all. Mia Farrow gives what is arguably the strongest performance of her career -- she certainly stretches way beyond her usual image -- to play a tough, gum chewing mafia gun mol. It's also interesting to see Woody play a bit more of a 'character' than usual. The film has some lovely black and white images, even if its not as striking as the greatest of the Gordon Wills/Allen collaborations like 'Manhattan'. A good-hearted film that will make you smile more than laugh out loud, it's well-worth seeing if you have any fondness for Allen's work.